Chase Freedom vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred

Which card is best for you?

Chase Freedom vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred

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Two of Chase’s most popular credit cards, the Chase Freedom and the Chase Sapphire Preferred, have both earned high praise from savvy rewards hunters who like to squeeze as much value as possible from their spending. But they’re very different cards.

Which should you choose?

It depends on how you plan to use it.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is best known as a premium travel card with one of the cushiest sign-up bonuses you can get without paying more than $100 on an annual fee. The card charges a yearly fee of $95, which is waived the first year, and offers a 2-point spending bonus on travel and restaurant purchases.

The Chase Freedom card, by contrast, is a classic cash back credit card that offers a modest sign-up bonus and doesn’t charge an annual fee. It’s best known for offering 5 percent cash back on a rotating list of everyday spending categories, such as gas and groceries, and is a favorite among power card users who like to switch up the cards they use to maximize rewards earnings.

How much value you get out of the cards will depend on what you buy and how much you’re willing to charge on a monthly basis.

Even better: If you travel regularly and want to maximize your spending, consider applying for both credit cards. Many of the savviest rewards cardholders strategically use both cards to get more from their spending. Because Chase lets you pool rewards from different card accounts, you could potentially build up a substantial collection of Ultimate Rewards just by alternating the two cards.

Here’s what else we found when comparing the Chase Freedom card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

CHASE FREEDOM VERSUS CHASE SAPPHIRE PREFERRED
  Chase Freedom card
Chase Freedom card
Chase Sapphire Preferred card
Chase Sapphire Preferred card
Rewards rate
  • 5% cash back on rotating categories ($1,500 in purchases per quarter)
  • 1% cash back on general purchases
  • 2 points per dollar on travel and dining
  • 1 point per dollar on general purchases
Sign-up bonus
  • $150 when you spend $500 in the first 3 months
  • $25 when you add an authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months
  • 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • 5,000 points when you add an authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months
Annual fee
$0 $95, waived first year
Estimated yearly rewards value (for someone who spends $15,900) $239 $412
Pros
  • Good sign-up bonus for a no annual fee card
  • Generous 5% cash back rate for bonus categories
  • Bonus categories are broad and typically include popular spending categories, such as gas, restaurants and groceries
  • Can combine cash with other Chase card earnings
  • Can also redeem cash for gift cards, merchandise, experiences or travel
  • Cash back doesn’t expire
  • 25% bonus when you redeem points for travel through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal
  • Large sign-up bonus if you can afford to spend $4,000 in three months
  • Good rewards rate for travel and dining purchases
  • No travel blackout dates or other travel restrictions
  • No limits on the number of points you can earn
  • Can transfer points on a 1:1 basis to airline partners
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Can pay for travel with partial points
  • Can redeem points for travel, gift cards, cash back, experiences or merchandise
  • Points don’t expire
Cons
  • You don’t get a rewards bonus when you book travel with Freedom card rewards
  • You can’t transfer cash back to airline or hotel partners
  • Must track quarterly spending categories and opt in every three months
  • Spending threshold for the sign-up bonus is high and may be unaffordable for cardholders on a budget
  • Only travel and dining purchases receive a rewards bonus
  • Maximizing this card’s benefits can get complicated
Who should get this card?
  • Someone who mostly uses credit for everyday purchases
  • A Sapphire Preferred cardholder who wants to maximize spending
  • Aspiring travelers
  • Frequent restaurant-goers
  • Someone who wants to earn a lot of rewards quickly

Best for aspiring travelers: Chase Sapphire Preferred

If your primary goal is to earn free travel and you plan to use just one card for most of your purchases, go with the Sapphire Preferred card. The Sapphire Preferred not only offers a large enough bonus to pay for a free domestic flight soon after you acquire the card, it also offers a more flexible transfer policy that lets you transfer points on a one-to-one basis to other travel loyalty programs.

REWARDS ON $5,000 ANNUAL AIR TRAVEL SPEND
Chase Freedom card Chase Sapphire Preferred card
$5,000 x 1% cash back = $50 $5,000 x 2 points x 1.26 cents average point value = $126

For example, frequent flyers of Southwest Airlines, British Airways, Air France, Korean Air, Singapore Airlines, United and Virgin Atlantic can apply their Sapphire Preferred points to their travel loyalty programs. Frequent guests of Marriott, Ritz Carlton, IHG and Hyatt can do the same. For heavy travelers, that perk alone can easily make up for the card’s annual fee.

The Sapphire Preferred card’s double point bonus on travel purchases also beats the Freedom card, making it a better choice for ongoing travelers. The Freedom card currently offers just one point per dollar on travel purchases.

Additionally, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card’s points are far more valuable than those of the Chase Freedom card. Freedom card points are worth only 1 cent per point for most redemption options. Thanks to the Sapphire Preferred card’s 25 percent travel redemption bonus, its points are worth 1.25 cents each when redeemed for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal. The Preferred card also has a long list of travel partners to which you can transfer points and get even higher point values. We value the Sapphire Preferred’s points at 1.26 cents per point on average.

Best for frequent restaurant-goers: Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Sapphire Preferred card also outshines the Freedom card when it comes to restaurant spending. In 2017, the Freedom card offered a 5 percent bonus on restaurants, but the promotion only lasted three months. The Sapphire Preferred card, on the other hand, offers an ongoing dining bonus of 2 percent throughout the year. If a frequent restaurant-goer only uses one card throughout the year, they’ll earn considerably more with the Sapphire Preferred card – especially with its higher point value.

Imagine, for example, that you and a family member eat out three times a week, costing you roughly $480 per month. With the Sapphire Preferred card, you’ll earn around $145 worth of rewards on dining alone. With the Freedom card, you’ll earn around $115 cash back.

The Sapphire Preferred card doesn’t make sense after the first year, though, if you don’t spend enough in other categories, such as travel, to make up for the $95 annual fee. If you don’t plan to buy more than one or two flights a year, you will get more long-term value out of restaurant spending and other expenses using the Freedom card.

REWARDS ON $480 MONTHLY RESTAURANT SPEND
Chase Freedom card Chase Sapphire Preferred card
($480 x 5% cash back x 3 months) + ($480 x 1% cash back x 9 months) = $115 $480 x 2 points x 12 months x 1.26 average point value = $145

Best for earning an influx of rewards quickly: Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card also stands out because of its eye-popping sign-up bonus. New cardholders who spend at least $4,000 in the card’s first three months will receive 50,000 bonus points, worth approximately $630. The Freedom card, by contrast, offers $150.

That said, the Freedom card’s sign-up bonus requires a much lower spend threshold than the Sapphire Preferred card, making it a better fit for cardholders on a budget. Sapphire Preferred cardholders must spend $4,000 in three months to earn the sign-up bonus, while Freedom cardholders only have to spend $500 in the card’s first three months.

SIGN-UP BONUS VALUE
Chase Freedom card Chase Sapphire Preferred card
15,000 points x 1 cent average point value = $150 50,000 points x 1.26 cent average point value = $630

Best for everyday purchases: Chase Freedom

The Sapphire Preferred card is great for cardholders who spend a generous amount on travel and eating out. But for cardholders who concentrate most of their card spending on everyday expenses, such as home-cooked meals, clothing and gas, the Chase Freedom card is a clear winner. As long as cardholders don’t mind tracking rotating spending categories, they can earn a significant amount using their Freedom card each time a purchase qualifies for a 5 percent bonus.

Let’s say, for example, that you average $300 per month on gas. If you use your Freedom card to earn 5 percent cash back during the first three months that gas qualifies for a bonus and 1 percent cash back the rest of the year, you’ll earn $72 by the end of the year. By contrast, if you use a Sapphire Preferred card for the same purchases, you’ll earn around $45 worth of rewards on your gas purchases by the end of the year.

REWARDS EARNED ON $300 MONTHLY GAS SPEND
Chase Freedom card Chase Sapphire Preferred card
($300 x 5% x 3 months) + ($300 x 1% x 9 months) = $72 $300 x 1 point x 12 months x 1.26 cent average point value = $45

Similarly, if you average $500 spend on groceries and use your Freedom to earn 5 percent cash back during the bonus period and 1 percent cash back the remainder of the year, you’ll earn $44 more than what you’d earn with the Sapphire Preferred card.

REWARDS EARNED ON $500 MONTHLY GROCERY SPEND
Chase Freedom card Chase Sapphire Preferred card
($500 x 5% x 3 months) + ($500 x 1% x 9 months) = $120 $500 x 1 point x 12 months x 1.26 cent average point value = $76

Pro tip: Use them both

The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Freedom cards are such different products that they pair better as a team than compete as rivals – particularly since there’s very little overlap between the two rewards programs.

If you’re eager to maximize every dollar you spend and earn enough free travel for multiple trips, you’ll get more for your money if you apply for both credit cards and alternate which one you use, based on your rewards purchases.

For example, you can use the Sapphire Preferred card for all your travel and restaurant spending and your Freedom card for everything else. Because Chase lets you pool your rewards from different accounts, you can potentially transfer earnings from your Chase Freedom card to your Sapphire Preferred card and buy travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards with a 25 percent bonus. You can also transfer your Freedom points to other travel loyalty programs once you’ve transferred the points to the Sapphire Preferred card.

The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we do receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy

PAIRING CHASE SAPPHIRE PREFERRED WITH CHASE FREEDOM CARD ($15,900 YEARLY SPEND)
Chase Freedom card
+
Chase Sapphire Preferred card
Average rewards rate Average point value Rewards earned minus $95 annual fee
  • 5% back on rotating categories, such as groceries, gas and department store spending
  • 2% back on restaurant and travel spending
1.32 1.26 cents $169

Matching your lifestyle

Savvy card users will benefit the most from using both cards. But cardholders who want to stick to just one card shouldn’t have much trouble squeezing value out of either card. You should carefully consider your spending and rewards habits, though, before you apply, since the cards’ benefits are so different.

Unless you’re a heavy traveler, the Freedom card has more to offer longtime cardholders – particularly since it doesn’t charge an annual fee. But the Sapphire Preferred card’s plush sign-up bonus, solid rewards rate for travel and restaurant purchases and flexible redemption policy make it a standout in the travel card category and an ideal choice for cardholders who want to earn a free trip quickly. 

See related: Chase Freedom vs. Discover it: Which card is best for you?, Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Capital One Venture: Which card is best for you?


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Updated: 06-22-2018